What Can AACR Do to Prevent Cancer? Insights From the AACR Cancer Prevention Summit
February is National Cancer Prevention Month. The World Health Organization states that at least one-third of all cancer cases are preventable, and that prevention is perhaps the most cost-effective strategy in the long run for the control of cancer.
“We cannot afford not to take action in the field of cancer prevention and interception to decrease cancer incidences and mortality worldwide,” said Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, AACR past president, Fellow of the AACR Academy, and Nobel laureate, in her keynote lecture titled, “Vision for the Future of Cancer Prevention” at the AACR Cancer Prevention Summit in Leesburg, Virginia, Feb. 3-5.
The AACR has been at the forefront of setting the research agenda for the cancer prevention community throughout its history, and as the needs of the field have expanded, the AACR has consistently shifted its priorities to best meet these needs. Now, like never before, as we witness a convergence of state-of-the-art technologies and a deeper knowledge in cancer prevention science, the AACR is once again taking the lead to foster effective collaborations, develop synergies, and integrate specialties to maximize the organization’s support of not only the cancer prevention research community, but also the public.
With the theme of “Shaping the Future of Cancer Prevention: A Roadmap for Integrative Cancer Science and Public Health,” the recent summit hosted by the AACR convened a diverse array of 70 experts from a wide range of advocacy organizations, academic institutions, government agencies, and pharmaceutical companies to discuss the current status, challenges, and future areas of promise that exist in their respective fields of cancer prevention sciences. The summit was co-chaired by Ernest T. Hawk, MD, MPH, and Scott M. Lippman, MD, co-chairpersons of the AACR’s Cancer Prevention Standing Committee, and was supported by Susan G. Komen®, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, and Bristol-Myers Squibb.
A key goal of this summit was for the cancer prevention experts in attendance to identify future research priorities and actions that the AACR may pursue to best support and stimulate further progress in the many fields encompassed by cancer prevention.
Speaking at the summit, the National Cancer Institute’s acting director Douglas R. Lowy, MD, FAACR, defined precision oncology as “interventions to prevent, diagnose, or treat cancer, based on a molecular and/or mechanistic understanding of the causes, pathogenesis, and/or pathology of the disease,” and explained how normal and precancerous cells are genetically less complex than those in cancer cells, a phenomenon that allows for greater opportunities for patient-specific treatment interventions prior to full disease progression.
“Therefore, if you like targeted interventions for the treatment of cancer, you will love targeted interventions for prevention and screening of cancer,” he said.
Lippman, who gave an overview of the AACR’s ongoing role in the prevention of all cancers, explained how the AACR strives to provide expert support to the cancer prevention community through its various association groups, such as the Cancer Prevention Standing Committee and the Molecular Epidemiology Working Group. “The summit is crucial at this juncture to accelerate progress in the prevention arena,” he said.
“The AACR stands ready to do more to support cancer prevention efforts worldwide,” Lippman added.
For two days, the experts—which included basic, translational, and clinical researchers, population scientists and epidemiologists, advocates, behavioral scientists, biostatisticians, and computational biologists, among others—deliberated on a variety of topics divided into 14 main scientific sessions, and passionately discussed the progress made so far, the challenges that lay ahead, and outlined big ideas that have the potential to move their respective areas of cancer prevention research forward.
A wide range of scientific topics were discussed, including but not limited to, the basic science of premalignancy and prevention; biomarkers, early detection, and screening; cancer in minority populations and cancer health disparities; cancer interception; clinical epidemiology, lifestyle, and environmental risk factors; dissemination and implementation science; energy balance, chronic inflammation, and the microbiome; HPV-related cancers and vaccines; molecular epidemiology, cancer genetics, and predisposition genes; non-viral vaccines and immunoprevention; precision cancer prevention; precision molecular diagnostics; quantitative sciences; and survivorship and energetics.
On day three of the summit, Hawk first outlined the many ways that the AACR lends its sustained and active support for cancer prevention science and researchers, including scientific grant opportunities, science policy and advocacy initiatives, achievement awards for cancer prevention breakthroughs, dedicated meetings in areas related to cancer prevention such as cancer health disparities, and active solicitations for cancer prevention sessions and abstracts at the AACR Annual Meetings.
Next, Hawk invited the 14 scientific session chairs and rapporteurs to summarize the major areas of emphasis that were discussed within their sessions, specifically highlighting what is currently needed to expedite research breakthroughs and improve clinical care for patients, while also pinpointing actions that the AACR may take to best serve the public and “advance cancer prevention on a national and international level.”
A summary of the top priorities and future research directions identified throughout this summit including what the AACR plans to do to enhance its existing support of cancer prevention sciences and public health will be available in a forthcoming scientific publication. Stay tuned!
For a list of summit participants, click here.